The 25th of Jon Turney’s weekly selection (introduced HERE) features a British saxophone master on a rare excursion into freedom.
Some famous names on this one: Jack Bruce; John McLaughlin. But it’s also a rare showcase for the brilliant Dick Heckstall-Smith on saxes.
It comes from the first solo album Bruce recorded post-Cream, and in hindsight reinforces his oft-quoted comment that they were an improvising trio in the style of Ornette Coleman, but Eric Clapton never knew.
The session looks back to earlier work – everyone here had worked with Graham Bond in the early ’60s. And this album’s version of the old Graham Bond number HCKHH Blues would have stood up decently as an extra track on McLaughlin’s celebrated Extrapolation.
But what really makes the album is Heckstall-Smith’s contributions. Bruce on acoustic bass is magisterial, Jon Hiseman a brilliantly supple jazz drummer, and they inspire some of the saxophonist’s best playing. He and Bruce state the simple opening theme, then he leads a freely improvised excursion on tenor, before all three go back into time while the sax solo builds, as Heckstall-Smith often did, to a passage where he plays two horns at once. There’s only the briefest touch of it here, but it stays with you.
More in this vein would be a fine thing, but this long ago session feels like a one-off. Everyone rose to the occasion, then moved on, and we are left with a tantalising pointer to roads not taken.